Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Saturday said that the First Information Report (FIR) filed in the case of illegal phone tapping and alleged leaking of sensitive documents related to police posting did not name IPS officer Rashmi Shukla who was then the Commissioner of the State Intelligence Department.
Darius Khambata, counsel for the state government, told the division bench of justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar that the FIR of March 26, 2021, was against unknown persons and does not name Shukla.
The arguments were made before the HC which is hearing a petition filed by Shukla seeking quashing of the FIR against her in the phone tapping case saying that she was being made the scapegoat.
Arguing that Shukla’s charges were absolutely frivolous and reckless, Khambata said that the FIR pertains to theft and leakage of phone tapping and does not name her. “It (FIR) does not charge her with any offence. It is against unknown persons. His (Shukla’s counsel Mahesh Jethmalani’s) arguments seem like a confession. She will be hoisted on her own pedestal.”
Khambata emphasised that the FIR was not concerned with the corruption in the transfer of police officers and postings or the phone tapping case or with Sitaram Kunte or with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigation into police transfers with regard to former home minister Anil Deshmukh.
The FIR is concerned with the leakage of the phone tapping report which is a very sensitive issue. “The FIR says that this document (phone tapping report) was unauthorisedly leaked to the public. She herself has admitted that it’s a sensitive, secret document. Instead of seeking investigation to find out who leaked the report, she (Shukla) is saying that quash the FIR,” argued Khambata.
Before quashing the FIR, one needs to see whether charges are made out against her, said Khambata.
Taking a dig at Jethmalani’s arguments, Khambata said: “When one doesn’t have a case, he takes everyone on a Bharat Yatra. Obviously, no one can say we are not concerned with the security of the state and justice.”
During the arguments, Jethmalani had contended that the government had not filed any reply till date. The petition was filed in May.
Khambata clarified that since the HC had not issued any notice to the government asking it to file a reply, no affidavit in reply was filed. “I do not want petitioner (Shukla) to argue that since no reply is filed by the government, everything in her petition is admitted,” said Khambata.
Jethmalani argued that during the hearing before another bench of HC on March 31, the Advocate General had said that “Nothing of substance was found” with regard to Shukla’s report on phone tapping. The findings were of March 25, 2021.
The FIR was registered the very next day, March 26. “If there was nothing in Shukla’s report, then why was FIR filed the very next day? And Stringent Official Secrets Act was invoked. This is a draconian act to protect the sovereignty of the state. Why did Advocate General not tell HC that FIR had already been filed?” argued Jethmalani.
He reiterated that permission for interception of phones was granted on 3/4 occasions. Jethmalani argued: “He (Kunte) knew it and is denying it today. All this is to show malafides against my client (Shukla) in the FIR.”
While issuing notice, the HC has asked the Maharashtra government to file reply by September 4. Shukla has been asked to file affidavit, if any, on government’s reply by September 9. The petition is kept for hearing on September 13.
A FIR was lodged against Shukla by the Mumbai police’s cyber cell in a case of illegal phone tapping and alleged leaking of sensitive documents related to police postings. Shukla was Commissioner, State Intelligence Department between October 11, 2018, and September 3, 2020. During this time, based on a report, then Director General of Police, directed her to conduct surveillance on certain phone numbers after taking necessary permissions from the Home Ministry.
At present, Shukla is serving as additional director general of the Central Reserve Police Force's (CRPF) South Zone and is posted in Hyderabad.
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